TORONTO – Mighty Heart, Canada’s reigning Horse of the Year, is set to tackle 1 1/16-miles on the Tapeta, in Saturday’s Grade 3 $150,000 Seagram Cup at Woodbine.
Trained by hall of famer Josie Carroll for owner-breeder Larry Cordes, Mighty Heart, a four-year-old son of Dramedy-Emma’s Bullseye, will look to deliver his connections a second graded stakes score after taking the Grade 3 Dominion Day on July 1.
The one-eyed colt, who recorded wins last year in the Queen’s Plate and Prince of Wales Stakes, the first two jewels of the Canadian Triple Crown, is in the midst of another fruitful campaign, having posted wins in the Dominion Day and Blame Stakes, a second in his most recent engagement, the Grade 3 West Virginia Governor’s Stakes on August 7, and a third in his seasonal bow at Keeneland in April.
Mighty Heart brings a record of 5-1-2 from 12 career starts into his latest test.
“His tenacity [stands out],” said Carroll. “The one thing I’ve always said about this horse is that he’s a little scrapper.”
Daisuke Fukumoto, aboard for the Queen’s Plate, Prince of Wales and Dominion Day victories, gets the call again on Saturday.
“He made my dream come true so he is special,” said the graded stakes winning rider. “I don’t have any particular tension when I ride him. I don’t get scared or nervous when we race. I’m always very conscious that I make him run comfortably. I would just like to say one more thing… it’s very fun to ride him.”
Mighty Heart launched his career with a pair of starts at Fair Grounds in early 2020. Those efforts, a fourth and a tenth, respectively, eventually led to a discussion between Cordes and a horse chiropractor.
“I knew there was something wrong in those first two races,” recalled Cordes. “The chiropractor was looking him over one day and thought something wasn’t right with his jaw. The horse was uncomfortable when he was looking at his face area, so we had a vet come in. He found an inflamed tooth and we took care of it. The rest is history.”
Mighty Heart’s next start, last July, resulted in a maiden-breaking performance in what was his first race at Woodbine. He soon grabbed headlines in Canada and beyond after his stirring scores in the Queen’s Plate and Prince of Wales.
This spring, Mighty Heart was voted Canada’s Horse of the Year for 2020, and champion Three-Year-Old Colt.
“This horse, he has a determination,” praised Cordes. “He is all heart. He started with a big handicap having no eye, but he didn’t let it affect him. He has this fight and he has this grit, whether it’s on the track or not.
“When he had his eye injury – and we’re 90 per cent sure it was the mare who caused it – we took him to the veterinarian in Guelph (Ontario) and they told us they had to take out the eye. But they told us not too worry about it too much. At his age, less than two weeks old at the time, they said that he’ll never know he could have had two eyes. When you watch him run – horses have good peripheral vision – he cocks his head just slightly to the left. Not badly, just enough so that he has that peripheral vision to see what’s beside him and have a good view.”
Mighty Heart’s story has created a significant following, both on Mighty Heart’s Instagram page (mightyheart.tb) and whenever he goes postward.
“He has a lot of followers,” said Cordes. “I get calls from the United States all the time and different media people from so many places. It’s not attention that’s just happening locally. Everybody likes an underdog and the fact he only has one eye makes it a compelling story.”
Cordes continues to receive correspondence from fans, young and old.
“I get letters from children, postmarked to Mighty Heart, not Larry Cordes. They draw pictures and share stories. I send horseshoes to them – everybody who sends something I return something to them along with a letter. Some people send Mighty Heart cookies. I don’t know how many times people have sent these cookies, which I guess are supposed to be horse cookies. He has a big following and it just makes me so happy.”
The longtime horseman’s biggest joy is in seeing the happiness his star brings to others, especially over the past year and a half.
“What’s really fantastic is that during this pandemic, what this brought to people… when I go to the track, many people will stop me and say, ‘This lifted us up a little bit.’ It’s done so much just to lift them up a little bit throughout this pandemic.”
Cordes is hoping there’s more reason to celebrate come Saturday.
“When he won the Dominion Day, I was going down the escalator, and a gentleman, three people in front of me, threw up his arms up in the air as far as he could reach and yelled, ‘You’re great, Mighty Heart!’ He didn’t know that I was behind him, but it showed me what he has done for people. It’s absolutely thrilling. I’m proud of him and I’m so happy. If he never wins another race, I’m still so proud. But he has plenty left in him. He’s as sound as sound can be. He’s just an amazing horse.”
The Seagram Cup is scheduled as race three of 10 on Saturday’s 1:10 p.m. card, which also includes the $150,000 Vice Regent Stakes (race seven), a 5-furlong Inner Turf race for Ontario-breds, three-year-olds & upward.
Fans can also watch and wager on all the live action via HPIbet.com.
$150,000 SEAGRAM CUP STAKES
Post – Horse – Jockey – Trainer
1 – Special Forces – Kazushi Kimura – Kevin Attard
2 – Another Mystery – Antonio Gallardo – Chris Block
3 – Dolder Grand – Patrick Husbands – Mark Casse
4 – Mighty Heart – Daisuke Fukumoto – Josie Carroll
5 – Tap It to Win – Rafael Hernandez – Mark Casse
$150,000 VICE REGENT STAKES
Post – Horse – Jockey – Trainer
1 – Alacritous – Steven Bahen – Ashlee Brnjas
2 – Celebratory – Justin Stein – Ashlee Brnjas
3 – Circle of Friends – Patrick Husbands – Don MacRae
4 – Rockcrest – Keveh Nicholls – Nigel Burke
5 – Souper Hot – Kazushi Kimura – Mike Mattine
6 – Not So Quiet – Rafael Hernandez – Mark Casse
7 – City Boy – David Moran – Michael Keogh
8 – Forester’s Fortune – Daisuke Fukumoto – Rodney Barrow
By Chris Lomon, Woodbine Communications
Photo: Mighty Heart winning the Queen’s Plate in September 2020 at Woodbine, (Michael Burns)